Kombucha: Is It Actually Healthy?
Should You Start Drinking Kombucha for Your Health?
The trendy drink is hot among health circles, and reportedly offers gut health benefits. Here’s what you need to know.
By Jessica Migala
Medically Reviewed by Kelly Kennedy, RD
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You’ve seen it in bottles — some places even have it on tap — and it seems like all the fit-minded folks are sipping it. Kombucha may be one of the latest health trends, but should it be in your fridge?
What’s the Definition of Kombucha Exactly?
First, a little background on what it is: “Kombucha is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, and bacteria and yeast cultures,” explains Mandy Enright, RDN, who is based in Sea Girt, New Jersey. She adds that a common misnomer is that kombucha is a mushroom, which isn’t the case.
The drink is made when bacteria and yeast are added to sugar and tea and then allowed to ferment. “The resulting liquid contains acid, B vitamins, and probiotics,” she says.
RELATED:The Absolute Best Teas to Drink to Boost Your Health
What Exactly Does Kombucha Taste Like? Is It Good?
It certainly has the aroma of a sweet-smelling vinegar. The taste can be a bit sour and tangy (like a hint of vinegar), and then there’s the fizz. You may even consider kombucha a cross between juice and a soda. (A grown-up soda, if you will.) And while the first sip — or five — may be surprising, your tastes acclimate and it’s easy to start craving the stuff.
Is Kombucha Healthy? And Why Has It Become So Popular?
You’ll see kombucha all over social media, particularly among health trendsetters. People need their daily “booch.” Behind the popularity: Its reputation as a probiotic-packed drink that’s good for your gut health. “The live bacteria and yeast keep our guts healthy by helping replace good bacteria after something may wipe them out of your system, like an illness.
They also help to balance nonharmful and harmful bacteria to keep the body in check,” says Enright. Irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, headaches, heart health, immunity, and blood sugar control are just some of the many conditions that probiotics may help play a role in managing, she says, although more research is needed.
RELATED:The Best Fermented Foods for People With Type 2 Diabetes
What Can’t Kombucha Do for Your Body?
Before you head to the store to pour yourself a big glass, know that there is a limit to what kombucha can do. If you are going to drink it, it’s important to do so within the context of a healthy diet — one filled with, for example, colorful fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Otherwise, no amount of kombucha can save you from a highly processed fast food lifestyle.
It’s not a miracle treatment for the conditions listed, either. Rather, kombucha is one opportunity in your day to get in probiotics — among other probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt, kefir, and fermented veggies such as sauerkraut — for gut health.
RELATED:How Your Gut Health May Affect RA Symptoms and Progression
Bottom line: More research is needed, suggests a study published in June 2014 in the journal Comprehensive Reviews that concluded that kombucha may have similar health properties as black tea. Preliminary research on animals suggests that the brew offers antimicrobial, antioxidant, and even anticancer benefits, but these studies would have to be carried out in people first before researchers could say it definitively works in this way in humans.
How Much Does Kombucha Cost if You Buy It?
One downside is that kombucha can be pricey. It’s not uncommon to spend at least on a bottle, which adds up quickly if you’re drinking it regularly. Some people make homemade kombucha, but it’s best to purchase it in a labeled and sealed bottle, says Enright. “Homemade versions might be brewed in nonsterile conditions,” she says, which means contamination may be possible. It also needs to stay cold to keep the bacteria alive, so pick it up from the refrigerated section.
What Are the Best Kombucha Brands to Reach For?
When you’re choosing a bottle, read the label to see how much sugar it contains per serving. Most bottles have more than one serving, so you’ll have to do the math. “All kombucha will contain sugar to some degree,” says Enright. Some will contain the calorie-free sweetener Stevia to give the flavor an even sweeter taste. is one brand that keeps added sugar to a minimum. For instance, its Ginger-Lemon flavor has just 10 grams (g) of sugar per 70-calorie bottle.
Video: Top 5 Reasons to Drink Kombucha Everyday
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